West Indies: Full of experienced all-rounders

West Indies has not lost a T20I series since the last World Twenty20 championship, and stands third in the ICC rankings.

Chris Gayle's pyrotechnics are well known.   -  AP

Samuel Badree's leg-spin could come in handy.   -  AP

Amid attention and disappointment over the steep decline of West Indies as a force in international cricket, compounded by the seemingly capricious attitude of its board, it is easy to miss the different narrative in Twenty20 Internationals (T20I). The focus on this format is understandably less as few matches are played every year. But the success of the team is undoubted: West Indies has not lost a T20I series since the last World Twenty20, and stands third in the ICC rankings.

Most of the members of the current squad are experienced and handy in Twenty20s, and have gained valuable warm-ups via Twenty20 leagues around the world.

After the World Twenty20 in 2014, in which it reached the semifinals, West Indies has played seven matches, won four, and lost three. The team was lifted remarkably by Chris Gayle’s solo efforts during an otherwise demoralising tour of South Africa in early 2015. It was an indication that the team is a different beast in the 20-over game.

Sunil Narine, one of its most vital catalysts in the successes it has enjoyed in the last four years, will not be a participant in the upcoming event. The off-spinner was West Indies’ highest wicket-taker in its 2012 title win, with nine wickets, and was also economical, conceding just 5.63 runs per over. His economy in the next edition of the event was even more impressive, 4.60. Moreover, he is an experienced bowler in India, having served as a key contributor for Kolkata Knight Riders’ Indian Premier League title win in 2014.

But his unavailability, owing to lack of sufficient rehabilitation measures following a correction to his bowling action, has compelled the selectors to go in with leg-spinner Samuel Badree and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn as the team’s two spinners for the upcoming tournament.

Badree has been a prolific wicket-taker in Twenty20s for West Indies. He comes fourth in the list of all-time wicket-takers for the team, since the inception of the format, despite having played considerably fewer matches than the men above him, namely, Darren Sammy, Narine and Dwayne Bravo. Badree was also crucial for his team in its World Twenty20 campaign in 2014, with 11 wickets in five matches.

West Indies will most likely choose both spinners in its squad in the Indian conditions, and field two fast bowlers. Its top seven is likely to be full of experienced all-rounders, solid with the bat and handy with spin — Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels — or pace, as Andre Russell. Kieron Pollard, the big-hitter, is missing from the squad, but there are other big hitters who are likely to provide cushion in his absence, including the potent Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher.

A healthy indicator for the side is that some of its prime members, including Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Russell have all conjured impactful performances for their Twenty20 franchises in the last two months.

The Twenty20 format is an unpredictable one, an observation suggested by the fact that the five editions of the world event has had different winners. A team that can gather a solid momentum and sustain it throughout the knockout stages can win the title. But if form suggests anything, West Indies is among the favourites.

The Team: 

Darren Sammy (capt), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Ashley Nurse, Johnson Charles, Carlos Brathwaite and Evin Lewis.

Players with punch:

Chris Gayle: The big hitting left-hander has been in prime form, and recently, in the Big Bash League, equalled the record for the fastest Twenty20 half-century (off 12 balls). His blitz at the top of the order can make contests one-sided.

Carlos Brathwaite: The seaming all-rounder left a big impact with his plucky knocks in West Indies’ Tests against Australia at the start of the year. His potential was recognised by Delhi Daredevils, evidenced in the IPL franchise’s willingness to gain his services for Rs. 4.2 crores.

Samuel Badree: In a tournament where spinners will be likely to call the shots, Samuel Badree’s legspin could provide West Indies the x-factor.